“If your dog training isn’t’ working then it isn’t correct” --- Bob Bailey
I have struggled with the Utility GO OUTS with my Border Collie Kaffee. His GO OUT point deductions often keep him from the coveted first place he needs for OTCH points. Currently at age 9 he has 83 OTCH points and I have lost the enthusiasm and energy to try to once again figure out how to help him do this exercise correctly when competing. He seems to understand at our home training field in the ring set up but when he gets to shows he knows he is going to be stopped for the SIT on the GO OUT, and he looks back at me or slows up at some point passing the 2 jumps.
I have always known that Kaffee does not understand “look straight” when I try to have him mark the center stantion for the GO OUT. His eyes wander left and right showing he is not following my hand to mark the position.
Another problem that dogs, especially herding breeds, often have is they do not go straight out to the center stantion but often drift to the left or right.
Now that I am working on Utility GO OUTS with my young Border Collie, Myst, I am challenged to learn more about just how dogs can understand this exercise and do it correctly: go when sent; run straight to the center stantion of the ring, turn and sit immediately at 5 feet from the station when asked by the handler; then jump either the bar of high jump when asked; coming into a perfect front, then perfect finish. This is the GO OUT, one of the most challenging exercises in Utility and often the one that often determines the winner of a class.
I have watched dogs that do this exercise correctly and thought that the dog seems to know that he runs up the middle between the 2 jumps. I was never sure that dogs, except for hunting breeds, really understood what “look straight” meant. Although with the glove exercise dogs do not seem to have trouble following the hand signal to either glove #1, #2, or #3.
Recently my understanding of the steps involved in training the GO OUT have helped me to think creatively and out of the box of how this might be trained. At a recent seminar the presenter discussed several steps she uses:
1. Teach the dog the behavior they will do at the stantion. For her it was put a paw on top of the stantion; others use a touch; still others use food to drive the dog to the center location, balls, dowels or whatever.
2. Second, teach the dog to turn tight and SIT facing you when asked.
3. Third, a series of drills using the Utility ring set up with the bar, high jump and ring gates to help the dog understand what CENTER means. It was clear from watching this that the drills are intended to help the dog learn that from no matter where they are sent, that CENTER is between the 2 jumps and the handler is always in the center. Since this is always the way the exercise is done, then using this set-up seems to be helpful to training the dog to go to the center stantion.
4. Finally, only after all of the above have been done successfully is the dog taught to “MARK” or look straight where the hand shows the dog. This is not a “look straight” but rather a mark, in much the same way it is done with teaching the glove exercise. This mark can be done using a zip tie on the center station to attach a piece of cheese or other attachable reward reinforcement.
It is important to note that when the dog is sent there are 2 commands: one for the leave my side and go out, and a second command at 5 feet from the center stantion to either go on and do the stantion behavior or to turn and sit. The reason for this is that your verbal is incorrect if you tell the dog to go away from you and do the behavior asked at the stantion such as “hit it” but then in a show you ask them to stop at 5 feet. You are telling them to do something which they do not actually do. This lack of clarity will cause problems.
This could be an example: Dog is sent from your side with a “GO” command. At 5 feet they are told to either “hit it”, “find it” or whatever you behavior is. Eventually it wll be the SIT.
So with all of this discussion of the go out training breakdown that I better understand, I wondered if the behavior at the stantion could be changed so the dog knows they go out for a game but the game is always a challenge and unpredictable (which should mean the dog will not anticipate the SIT). The game might consist of one of the following…
· Get a tennis ball attached to the stantion (tennis ball with slit in side so it attaches).
· A “find it” for a tiny white cup (like the top of medicine bottles) with a treat inside or on top.
· Tiny ball on the ground beside the stantion, not easily seen.
· Cheese on the zip tie attached to the stantion.
· Ring gates open and dog goes through to a target with reward.
· Dog jumps over the gates on command to chase a ball thrown.
· Dog goes out and sits on a box.
· Dog turns and sits at 5 feet without the box.
· And yes, I guess you could do the hit the stantion as a “bop” or “ hit it”. However for big dogs this is problematic since the stantion can fall over and for my young Border Collie, this put her over the top with excitement and barking.
So why do I think this could work and would not leave the dog confused about the GO OUT behavior? Rather make this into a game where the dog has fun and cannot predict what is going to be asked at 5 feet from the center stantion. I guess all of my learning from Susan Garrett has inspired me to think out of the box about my challenges in dog training. I view Susan as one of the top dog trainers in the world and I have learned so much from her about positive dog training through her online classes over the last few years. One of her ebooks she shared was “Strategy to Game Creation: Transferring Value Through Games.”
Susan worked extensively with Bob Bailey and learned that training solutions should be “fun, effective, and efficient.” Old dog training methods showed the dog what we wanted him to do… a one way flow of information. However, what Susan teaches is that dog training should be a TWO way flow of information: we create challenges for the dogs in the form of games and then we watch them make their choices. Training can be “ just a game.”
Susan writes, “take a dog training skill that is currently giving you and your dog frustration and come up with a new game to help your dog understand the learning you want to achieve.” Ahhhhhh… the challenging GO OUTS.
Some of Susan’s Key Elements of a Game:
2. RULES… the criteria for success is clear and achievable
3. CHALLENGES… there is an element of frustration that pushes you to try harder in order to find success.
4. ADDICTIVE.. the game is so rewarding that when you are not doing it you are thinking of ways to find time to get back to it!
5. GROWS VALUE… the game, the person played with, the place you paly all become reinforcing.
6. STIMULATES FOCUS
7. CREATES DESIRE… encourages participants to want to push through struggles.
AND, HER STEPS:
· Know what is of high value to the dog --- balls, high value food
· Know what you want.
· Know your dog’s best training zone: an under aroused dog is likely to be distracted by things in their environment (smells, people, other dogs, noises); an over aroused dog will be unable to focus.
· Transfer this value to the desired response in the game --- go get the ball, find the food, jump to chase the ball
· Focus on the goal of the game
· Create the transformed dog… understanding that when she is sent out, she goes straight to a game behavior asked for at 5 feet
· Keep game short. Evaluate and record what you have and what needs improvement with each training session.
Finding our Joy in GO OUTS…
Myst has learned many of the game components that I wrote about above with the tennis ball, tiny cup with treat, go out to a box and sit, turn and sit tightly. Now that I have a better understanding of the individual training components of the GO OUT exercise, I am ready to become committed to this new way to teach GO OUTS by creating a game. I will evaluate and continue to make this unpredictable all the while focusing on FUN, CORRECT CRITERIA FOR THE ULTIMATE PERFORMANCE AND EVALUATION of our progress.
NEW: 2 VIDEOS for teaching a FUN GAME to learn MARK for the Utility GO OUTS.
“Sustained success in any field comes from making a habit of turning around what others find boring or uncomfortable into a daily game for yourself.”
- Susan Garrett
Here is anther way to teach GO OUTS from Denise Fenzi.
The challenge is developing the understanding that the "mark" means look straight, and then GO until I give you a second command which will be 5 feet from the stantion. What I like about mine is it is designed to be a game that is fun and develops a broader understanding of the behavior. I am hoping it will produce a solid understanding of the MARK and GO until a second command is given which could be the ball, food in the tiny cup, food on the zip tie stantion, jump over the gates to get the ball,a dowell or perhaps just do a sit at 4 feet from the end and a ball is thrown to you sometimes. GAMES ON!!!
Below are 2 videos on teaching the dog to "mark". This first one my Border Collie Myst loves: it involves going out to her favorite toys... a ball. At first we start with a large ball that is clearly visible, then progress to a smaller tennis ball and then hide the ball in leaves for the beginning of a "blind go out".
The second is teaching to look straight or MARK to a number of favorite objects.
The next step will be increasing the distance and opening the gates to go past the gate.. or GO until I tell you to stop. Coming soon.